Making good choices

Eating foods that keep our blood sugar levels stable is equally important for us all, including those who have to manage their diabetes. Some foods have a bigger effect on blood sugar levels than others. The more these levels vary throughout the day, the more we want to eat. This could lead to unnecessary weight gain and ultimately some lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Selecting foods that provide a slower and longer lasting release of energy, should be the focus. The energy we need mainly comes from carbohydrates and fats. Foods that contain soluble fibre, like legumes, sweet potato, oats and oat bran, are great to keep blood sugar levels stable. Foods like these are known for having a low GI (glycaemic index) as they cause a more controlled and/or sustained release of energy into the bloodstream. These also include complex and unrefined carbs, like wholewheat bread and brown rice, which cause a slower rise in your blood sugar levels compared to more refined carbs. Note that low GI foods are however not lower in carbs than a high GI version of the same food. Portion control is therefore still important. For instance low GI bread has the same amount of carbs as regular bread, but is the better option as it will increase blood sugar levels at a slower rate than regular bread. Food labels may often indicate whether food is low GI or not and it is helpful in making better food choices. See for more about food labels.

Starchy foods, like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and pap contain a lot of carbs and are often consumed in too large portions. People often underestimate how much of these foods they eat, due to the way it is served. For instance pasta is often eaten in a large portion – usually the equivalent of six slices of bread. The combination of more than one type of starch, e.g. potatoes and bread, at a meal, also contributes to eating too many carbohydrates.

A healthier way of eating does not only mean avoiding foods like sugary and refined treats, but also including ingredients known for their nutritional value and health benefits. These include fresh fruit and veggies, nuts and seeds, oats, legumes, healthy fats (like avocado) and lean proteins (like eggs and chicken). Eating these foods will not only help to manage your blood sugar levels, but provide the body with important nutrients like minerals, vitamins and fibre.

Example

The amount of carbs in a medium apple is almost equal to a 30 g packet of crisps, but the nutritional value of the apple is far higher.

Choose better options

Here are a few examples of how you can choose better starchy foods to include in your meals to better manage your blood sugar control:

choose better options

instead of

Sweet potato, in the skinPotato, peeled
Brown riceWhite rice
OatsBoxed cereals or muesli
Lentils and legumesWhite rice, pasta or pap
Raw, unsalted nuts and seedsChips and other salty snacks
Seasonal fruitSweets and chocolates
Avocado on a sandwichCheese and jam on a sandwich
Coarse mealie mealFine mealie meal
Wholewheat bread or low GI brown bread for braaibroodjiesWhite bread, premade roosterkoek or garlic bread

Cooking from the heart tip

Use the Plate model to control your portions and to make better choices. This is just as important when eating out. Click here for more information.